This Bengaluru Guy is Taking on Google's reCaptcha

Already carrying a baggage of a failed venture in 2013, starting up second time was a 'go big or go home' moment for Bengaluru-based Pavan Thatha.

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By Sandeep Soni

Entrepreneur India

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Anxiety and stress can make-orbreak your effort. Those who feel empowered to drive their destiny belong to the former pack – making the best of tough times. Already carrying a baggage of a failed venture in 2013, starting up second time was a "go big or go home' moment for Bengaluru-based Pavan Thatha. So he used his stress to fuel passion, not misery, and perseverance not trepidation. Today ShieldSquare, as Thatha claims, is among the top two players in a nascent but revolutionary market of protecting online portals against web scraping by bad bots.

Thatha tried his hand at entrepreneurship for three years with ArrayShield, which was into two-factor authentication space, but couldn't scale it up. He was already alien to the society when he started in 2010, since entrepreneurship wasn't as fancy then as it is now. But with the failure tag, doing another start-up might have been akin to committing a sin. However, for Thatha, it was a different thing.

"This was the last chance for me to prove myself and to my family. Things didn't go the way we wanted with ArrayShield, so it was quite stressful. Pressure was much higher for doing it the second time," says Thatha. This is true for a growing ecosystem like India. Deep down people are pessimist towards entrepreneurship.

"People questioned why I was doing this after studying engineering and having a good job. There was so much resistance to do something of my own," adds Thatha. But he made up for his first loss. ShieldSquare have customers from 68 countries. It grew six times this year. ShieldSquare graduated
from Microsoft Venture Accelerator's 2013 winter batch in November.

Building Global reCaptcha
The learnings Thatha had at the accelerator was instrumental in getting the basics cleared regarding scaling a technology venture, which he got wrong at ArrayShield – to study the market and talk to prospective customers before creating and trying to scale the product. "We didn't read the market properly. We built the product and later realized that the market is already mature. We thought that people will switch to our product. At the accelerator, we learnt to first talk to customers, understand the real pain point, and if the market is large enough to address," explains Thatha.

Talking to people, he realized how big the mess of non-human traffic coming to websites from competitors and unauthorized third parties was. "Everybody has problem from bot traffic and it impacts the business; even existing solutions in cyber security space didn't really solve the problem," asserts Thatha. This is unlike a traditional cyber security company that prevents hacks.

In other words, ShieldSquare helps online businesses protect their competitive advantage. For e.g., a content portal can save its unique content, or an e-commerce site which let's say has a unique pricing strategy and pricing information can save it from getting stolen by competitors. This, Thatha explained on company's blog that how his solution is better than Google's reCaptcha – a captcha system launched by Google in 2014 to block bots that spam websites.

Me Time
While entrepreneurship means you are on-the-job around the clock which often gets overwhelming, Thatha makes sure he has some "free' time to think of business and manage his time well. "I check my
emails at particular intervals during the day and respond in bulk. I don't keep my email window open every time. Also before any meeting, I look at whether I am really required in it. If no, then I ask for meeting minutes. I don't want to be involved in everything," maintains Thatha.

Thatha's focus is primarily on the global market. In fact, more than 95 per cent of ShieldSquare's revenue comes from outside India. Currently, it is targeting the US and European markets.

(This article was first published in the January issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Sandeep Soni

Former Features Editor

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